Re: [Frameworks] Will Hindle films

From: Mark Toscano (email suppressed)
Date: Tue Jul 06 2010 - 17:29:51 PDT

Hi all,

Indeed, Will Hindle's films are in a difficult state. I’ve been accumulating elements and information on his work for some time now – in fact, going back pretty much to the beginning of my time doing film restoration work at the Academy in 2003. Pretty early on, I was able to get, on deposit from Shellie Fleming, the originals for two of Will’s films (Non Catholicam and Saint Flournoy). PFA loaned me the elements for FFFTCM that they rescued when Palmer’s Lab closed. Finally, I turned up the originals for Pasteur3 at Deluxe Labs in Hollywood here. And I knew that the Billabong and Chinese Firedrill originals were at MoMA.

With the originals for those three films in my possession, I planned, starting around 2005, to do the restoration work, get new internegatives made, etc., and with the originals in hand, thought this might not be so complicated. Turns out it’s insanely complicated.

Each one would take a long description of why it’s not done yet, five years later. Though the time and work hasn’t been wasted, because at this point I have a much better sense of what the options are not just for those three films of Will’s, but all 11 of his completed works:

The originals for this film are lost. They were possibly lost in the 1970s, at which time an internegative was made from a Canyon Cinema print. Subsequently, I have some correspondence which suggests Will may have gotten an idea as to where the originals were, but I don’t know anything after that. They’ve basically never turned up, and I’m guessing he just never found them. Regardless, I plan to make a new internegative from a near-pristine original print I have access to.

The original reversal A/B rolls are in good shape, but do not QUITE represent the final form of the film. The penultimate shot, of the hand of a crucifix, has an optically introduced effect made only in the original dupe negative, from which all prints were struck. This negative was lost, but now may have been found, though I don’t have access to it yet. The plan would be to go back to the originals and make a new dupe, optically building in the one variant shot from a new pos section made off the old dupe neg. The originals also have some ink effects to create more subtle fades, which means we can’t clean them or print them wet, so they have to be hand-cleaned very carefully. The sound is already restored from the original mag, and sounds excellent.

29: MERCI MERCI (1966)
The originals for this were lost by Will in the 1970s or earlier. There are two very good original reversal prints I removed from Canyon to conserve and use as sources for a new negative.

FFFTCM (1967)
The originals (ABC reversal) have lots of hand-applied tape and even ink effects, and as early as the mid-‘70s were deemed unprintable by Will himself. However, I think they can be printed, but need a lot of hand cleaning and care, which I have yet to perform. The sound is already restored from the original mag, and sounds great.

I borrowed these originals from MoMA, and discovered them to have some major problems, but I think it may all be fixable. The biggest problem is that Will wrote his effects notes on little stickers that precede or follow a given shot (like “24 frame fade-in”, stuff like that). Over the years, these stickers somehow came to adhere to the opposite wind of film, so several of them are now stuck to the emulsion of the preceding or following wind. Also, a lot of the film is hand-tinted black and white stock, and there are some hand-applied tape effects too, most notable in the film’s one, er, ecstatic sequence, for those of you who know it. So again, it has to be done VERY carefully, but I think we have a good chance of making the originals printable again.

I also borrowed these original reversal ABC rolls from MoMA, and they’re in pretty good shape, but not perfect. But they are printable, and with some cleaning and care, will yield excellent results. No color fading, and the hand-applied tape effects seem to have all been done with metal sensing tape, which seems nice and sturdy on the film, and shouldn’t be bothered by cleaning or wetgate printing.

The originals are lost, which is REALLY a bummer. But a few good Kodachrome prints have turned up in unexpected places, so the plan is to dupe the best Kodachrome print to a new internegative. The film was shot on 7255 ECO for the most part, which is low contrast and generally yields a very nice Kodachrome (7387) print, with not too high of contrast or density, meaning it can be duped to a new internegative with fairly good results.

I have the originals, and they’re actually in really good shape, but there are 7 shots on now-faded color print stock. I thought this was an insurmountable problem, until I discovered the roll of effects negative that MADE the 7 shots. So the plan is to reprint the negative, make replacement sections for those 7 shots, swap them into the original ABC rolls for printing, then make the new internegative. Sound restoration was already done, replicating the original mix from the original A/B cut mags, using an optical as a guide. The results match the optical exactly, but sound much better, i.e. sound like the lost original mixed mag would’ve sounded.

The originals are lost, but I have access to a very nice Kodachrome print, so we can follow the same plan as Pastorale d’ete and Watersmith.

PASTEUR3 (1976)
Found the originals at Deluxe. No mag, but the original optical track, at least. The original reversal ABC rolls have some color fading, but I haven’t looked at them in a few years, so I need to re-examine to get a better idea of what to do here. I also retired a good print from Canyon just in case, but it’s a 7389 or 7390 (can’t remember which) Ektachrome print, so it has mild fading too.

Will’s last film has been seen by very few people and was never circulated. Right before his sudden death, he wrote a letter to Canyon in which he said he would be placing a print of this film there very soon, but died before it could happen. The originals seem to be lost, but I have a good 7399 reversal print from them. It’s currently the only print in existence. The plan is basically to dupe the print, since it’s all that can be done.

Hope this information was of interest. Happy to answer any questions if I can. I’m really annoyed at myself for not yet finishing the restoration of one of these films, but each one I’ve started investigating ends up being a massive labyrinthine problem, with weird impediments, usually things beyond my control or things I just have to wait on, like access to a temporarily unobtainable element. But in the coming several months, in light of some modifications I’ve made to my budgeting and even to my way of approaching the numerous simultaneous projects I’m dealing with, I have plans to work on and finish a few!

As for digital transfers:

For one thing, Will, in his lifetime, apparently harbored an understandable dislike for how his films appeared on video (note – he died in 1987). His estate, which consists of a couple that were his friends and neighbors in Alabama, have told me that they intend to respect those feelings of his, and in fact one stipulation they made to allow me to work on the films was that I would not transfer them to video. Of course we all know that there have been absurdly major advances in the quality of film-to-video reproduction, so Will’s concerns in the mid-‘80s are incredibly out-of-date now. Last I heard, they were more open to it, but it’s contingent on a number of things. It’s quite possible. I haven’t spoken to them myself in some time.

As to the general subject of transfers though, usually the biggest impediment is money. Who can pay for it? Criterion paid for all the Brakhage transfers, and will probably turn a profit on the release because they’re a respected and recognizable brand, so to speak. And Brakhage is one of the more well-known avant-garde filmmakers. Almost all of Su Friedrich’s work also came out in a series of DVDs, which I think have done pretty well. I don’t know if new transfers were done, or they just used the existing ones she had done film-by-film over many years as she finished each project.

Plenty of the filmmakers I work with would be happy to have their films out on DVD, or at least have nice digital transfers made, but it always comes down to who can afford to do it well enough to make it worthwhile. Very few DVD companies are willing to spend the money, because they just won’t make it back. And I usually can’t justify it coming out of our preservation budget at the archive because it doesn’t directly assist the restoration work. However, even if I could, every high quality digital transfer I did would cost about the same as the lab preservation work on another short film, so for me, it’s even harder to justify.

Sorry for the massive post!

Mark Toscano

FrameWorks mailing list
email suppressed